Having over 100,000 motorcycles registered in the state of South Carolina, it is safe to say that there is a significant number of residents that ride throughout our state.  With so many motorcycles on South Carolina’s streets, there are many risks involved. Below, we provide some information about the types of accidents and injuries experienced by motorcyclists, as well as the legal process afforded to injured victims for seeking compensation. If you have questions about a specific South Carolina motorcycle accident that has harmed you or a loved one, contact us today at the Hughey Law Firm for a free consultation with one of our experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident attorneys.

The Dangers of Motorcycles

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, a motorcycle accident kills a person every 3.3 days in South Carolina. Nationally, more than 5,000 motorcyclists and their passengers die in traffic accidents per year. Across both the state and the nation, for every accident fatality, there are many more individuals who suffer serious and life-altering injuries in motorcycle accidents.

Several features of motorcycles make them inherently more dangerous than other types of vehicles, for example:

  • Less stability, due to having two wheels rather than four. The stability provided by four wheels enables drivers of passenger cars, trucks, vans, and commercial vehicles to easily maneuver around obstacles. As such, sharp curves, potholes, and debris in the road create a higher risk of accidents for motorcyclists than drivers.
  • Lack of protective features such as a steel frame, seat belts, and airbags that reduce the rider’s risk of serious injury in the event of an accident.
  • Lack of visibility to other motorists. Motorcycles, with their slimmer, lower profile often go unnoticed by other motorists. When drivers scan the roadway for potential hazards, they are often instinctually looking for cars and trucks, rather than motorcycles.

How Motorcycle Accidents Happen

Some common causes that contribute to motorcycle accidents include:

  • Blind spots: Every motor vehicle has at least one blind spot, which is generally located alongside the rear of the vehicle. Despite side and rearview mirrors, drivers cannot see objects in their vehicle’s blind spots. To ensure the blind spot is clear, drivers are required to look over their shoulder before attempting to turn or change lanes. Drivers failure to thoroughly check their blind spots, increases the risks of contributing to a motorcycle accident.
  • Dooring: Dooring occurs when the driver or passenger of a motor vehicle is parked along the side of the road and opens his or her door into the path of a motorcyclist. As a result, the rider may collide with the door or cause an accident while swerving to avoid impact.
  • Alcohol impairment: Alcohol impairment is a major cause of motorcycle accidents, with more than a quarter of all fatal motorcycle accidents involving either an impaired rider or impaired driver. Although operators of motor vehicles are permitted to drive after consuming small amounts of alcohol, alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. Consuming alcohol creates deficits in the skills needed for safe driving, including the ability to brake or steer effectively, the ability to control speed, and the ability to make good decisions.
  • Speeding: Speeding is another major cause of motorcycle accidents. When the driver of a motor vehicle speeds, it reduces the time that the driver or rider has to perceive and react to a hazard in the roadway. In addition, the distance required to bring the vehicle to a safe stop is increased when traveling at excessive speeds. The severity of the collision also increases with speed increases, resulting in the possibility of more serious injuries.
  • Poor road conditions: While potholes, gravel, and debris are not a major problem for drivers of passenger vehicles, they pose a serious risk of accidents for motorcycle riders. Because motorcycles have less stability and maneuverability by design, seemingly minor roadway obstacles can contribute to causing devastating accidents.
  • Left-turning cars: One of the more common causes of motorcycle accidents occurs when a car turns left into the path of a motorcycle that is traveling straight through an intersection.
  • Defective motorcycle parts: The manufacturers and distributors of motorcycles and motorcycle parts have a legal obligation to ensure that their products are safe for consumers when used as intended. Those who fail to provide quality products can be held liable for accident injuries caused by a product defect or malfunction.

Common Injuries Associated With Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle riders and their passengers are five times more likely than the occupants of enclosed motor vehicles to be injured in an accident. Because of the lack of protection that a steel-framed, enclosed vehicle provides, these injuries oftentimes are catastrophic.

Among the most serious injuries motorcyclists can suffer are traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are typically a consequence of a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. The extent of damage caused by a traumatic impact to the head is often difficult to predict. However, traumatic brain injuries commonly cause cognitive deficits including difficulties speaking and understanding spoken language, controlling emotions and impulses, and remembering past events.

In addition, traumatic brain injury victims frequently struggle with balance and coordination, and may experience a loss of functioning in their primary senses, including sight, smell, touch, and taste. Often, cognitive deficits experienced by traumatic brain injury victims create permanent disabilities. Disabilities associated with head injuries may make it difficult or impossible for injured victims to return to work or complete basic daily tasks.

In South Carolina, only motorcycle riders under the age of 21 must wear helmets approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that motorcycle helmets save more than 1,500 lives each year. Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk of brain injury by 69 percent.

DOT-approved helmets are certified to meet the federal safety standards established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Certified helmets come with a sticker indicating that testing shows they meet or exceed the standards. DOT-approved helmets must have an inner lining around one-inch thick, and weigh at least three pounds. Certified helmets must also be void of any object that protrudes from the helmet more than one-fifth of an inch.

Other common injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents include:

  • Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves protected by the vertebrate of the spine that extends from the base of the skull to the lower back. Along with the brain, the spinal cord constitutes the body’s central nervous system. The brain sends messages through the spinal cord to control all other parts of the body. Like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries often result in permanent disability. Contrary to popular belief, a spinal cord injury rarely involves a fully severed spinal cord, but rather the spinal cord suffers damage while remaining intact. Spinal cord injuries generally involve the loss of sensation and function below the site of the injury, or paralysis. Injuries that occur higher on the spine typically affect a larger portion of the body. Injuries sustained in the cervical (neck) area of the spine often cause paralysis of the shoulders, arms, hands, chest, torso, hips, pelvis, legs, and feet.
  • Broken bones: Collisions involving motorcycles frequently cause the rider to be ejected from the motorcycle. As a result, the rider’s body may strike the vehicle, other objects, or the roadway at a high rate of impact. It is not unusual for the rider to suffer several bone fractures in a single accident, including some that are severe.
  • Amputated limbs: In the chaos of the accident, a motorcyclists’ limbs are at high risk of sustaining severe damage, and even amputation. When limb damage is too severe for doctors to treat, they may need to resort to surgical amputation to save the injured victim’s life.
  • Biker’s arm: The body’s natural instinct is to protect itself from a fall by extending the arms. Riders who attempt to “catch themselves” during a motorcycle collision often suffer severe damage to the muscles, nerves, and tendons of the arm, commonly referred to as “biker’s arm.”
  • Facial injury: Those who ride motorcycles without a helmet that features a face shield are at risk of suffering severe trauma to the face. Riders commonly experience deep cuts and lacerations, as well as fractures to the facial bones. Facial injuries tend to cause permanent scarring and disfigurement.
  • Burns: Motorcycles run on highly flammable gasoline. In an accident, gasoline may spill out and ignite, resulting in severe burns to the rider. Additionally, because gasoline and other chemicals needed to run the motorcycle are caustic, riders may experience chemical burns during an accident.

Compensation After a South Carolina Motorcycle Accident

Because the injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents are oftentimes serious and result in permanent disability, injured victims may seek compensation for impacts associated with their injuries. Individuals who were injured in a motorcycle accident as a result of another’s careless or reckless actions may recover damages by filing a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit.

Your South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer could file a claim in civil court. For a successful outcome, injured victims must prove that another person or entity was liable for their injuries. In addition, they must substantiate the costs of their accident-related expenses and losses through medical records and bills, lost wages, expert witness testimony and reports, and vehicle repair records.

Liability involves showing:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. In a motorcycle accident that involves an at-fault driver, the duty of care the driver owes is to operate their vehicle safely and lawfully. In cases involving defective parts, the manufacturer or distributor must provide consumers with a product that is safe when used properly.
  • The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to the action that the at-fault party took that caused the accident, such as an alcohol-impaired motorist, a speeding driver, or a manufacturer who produced a malfunctioning part.
  • This breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries and subjected you to expenses and impacts.

The damages you can claim in a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit include both economic and non-economic expenses.

  • Economic expenses are out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and the cost of repairing or replacing personal property that the accident damaged.
  • Non-economic expenses account for the impacts that the injury has on your life. Impacts may involve physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of the enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is a claim on behalf of the victim’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship suffered as a result of the injury.

Not every South Carolina motorcycle accident claim proceeds to court. In fact, the majority of South Carolina motorcycle accident cases resolved through settlement negotiations and agreements outside of court. Injured victims may benefit from retaining an experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer who can guide you throughout the claims process, negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of their client, and try to secure a fair settlement.

South Carolina Motorcycle Accident FAQ

Because of the size of a motorcycle compared to other vehicles on the road, a collision involving a motorcycle has the potential to transmit substantially greater force to the rider (and passenger, if applicable) of the motorcycle than to the occupants of a vehicle. As a result, motorcyclists are considered vulnerable roadway users. Motorcycle accidents are almost always tragic, and sadly, they are not uncommon. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, more than a hundred people die each year as a result of motorcycle accidents. Fatal accidents involving motorcyclists account for around one death every three days. Thousands of additional motorcycle accidents result in serious and life-altering injuries.

Many victims of South Carolina motorcycle accidents have come to us at the Hughey Law Firm asking a variety of important questions about the process and their legal rights following an accident. Below are the answers to some of the questions we receive most frequently about motorcycle accidents in South Carolina.

How do I recover for expenses related to the injuries I sustained in a motorcycle accident?

Victims who suffer injury in a motorcycle accident caused by the careless or reckless actions of another, may be entitled to seek compensation for accident-related expenses. A South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit enables injured victims to pursue a recovery of compensation for medical expenses, as well as costs associated with the extraordinary impacts the injuries have had on their life. A South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit is a legal action filed in civil court, generally against the at-fault party’s insurance provider.

The types of damages that injured parties may seek to recover through a South Carolina motorcycle accident claim include:

  • Economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and the cost of repairing or replacing your motorcycle or other equipment.
  • Non-economic damages, including physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, permanent disability, mental anguish, and disfigurement.

An experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney could help identify the type of compensation you may want to pursue and could partner with you to help preserve and act on your rights.

How do I prove that someone else caused my motorcycle accident?

Proving that another is at fault for a motorcycle accident requires the injured party to establish three elements:

  1. The at-fault party owed a duty of care. The level of care owed may depend on the circumstances leading to the accident. However, if the accident was the fault of a motorist, the duty of care he or she owes to other motorists on the roadways is to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and lawfully.
  2. The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach must constitute an action (or inaction) that contributed to the accident. For example, distracted driving, alcohol impairment, or failure to yield could breach of the duty of care.
  3. The breach must have caused the accident, and the accident must have resulted in injuries, causing subsequent expenses and life impacts.

To prove liability, a South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney may gather evidence to strengthen a claim for compensation. Critical evidence may include police reports, photos of property damage caused by the accident, photos of injuries, copies of medical bills, and expert witness testimony and reports when appropriate. In addition, evidence of a breach in the duty of care is critical, including failed breathalyzer tests or phone records indicating that the at-fault party was texting.

I was a passenger in a motorcycle accident. Can I claim compensation for my injuries?

If the reckless or careless actions of another person caused the accident injuries, both the rider and the passenger can file a South Carolina motorcycle accident claim against the at-fault party to recover damages.  Furthermore, if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage of your own, you may be able to make a claim on that policy as a passenger in an accident.  Contact an attorney at Hughey Law Firm to review the auto policies of all persons involved in your motorcycle accident to see from whom you can recover compensation for your injuries.

I was not wearing a helmet when I had my motorcycle accident. Does this mean I cannot recover compensation?

Riders or passengers who were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident may still be entitled to recover damages if the accident was caused by another’s careless or reckless actions. South Carolina law permits motorcyclists over the age of 21 to ride without a helmet. For those riders who are under 21, the failure to wear a helmet may result in a traffic citation. However, it does not negate another’s liability for injuries resulting from an accident they caused.

Will my motorcycle accident case go to trial?

The short answer is “it depends.”  South Carolina motorcycle accident claims do not necessarily proceed to the trial stage of the litigation process. In fact, it is far more likely that the case will settle before the trial begins, as the vast majority of South Carolina motorcycle accident cases settle outside of court.

Injured parties should consider retaining an experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer to guide you through how to maximize your recovery, whether a lawsuit is filed or not. Our attorneys are more than comfortable and confident in proceeding to trial, should that be the best course of action for a particular case.

A vehicle made a left turn into the path of my motorcycle. Who is at fault for the accident?

Left turning drivers who turn into the path of a motorcycle are often at fault for failing to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic. However, there are some exceptions for assigning fault to the driver if the motorcyclist has violated traffic laws. For example, a motorcyclist traveling at excessive speeds, preventing the driver from properly gauging a gap in traffic, or running a red light may be fully or partially liable for the accident.

What is the average settlement in a motorcycle accident case?

There is no “average” settlement amount awarded in motorcycle accident cases. Settlements are based on damages, which are unique to each case.

However, the following factors can affect the value of a South Carolina motorcycle accident claim:

  • Whether the at-fault party has insurance. In most traffic-related accidents, the at-fault party’s insurance company pays the compensation that injured parties receive. When appropriate, a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer may carefully look at the details of a case to determine all sources of liability. After identifying liable parties, a South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney may help determine the range of insurance resources that can be accessed to obtain a fair settlement.
  • The severity of accident-related injuries. Severe injuries are frequently associated with extensive medical bills, more missed time from work, and increased impacts on victims’ lives. As a result, victims suffering from more severe injuries may recover more compensation.
  • The victim’s overall health at the time of the injury. Insurance providers routinely discredit the value of a claim when the injured party has pre-existing injuries. Commonly, insurance companies will point to preexisting conditions as the source of a victim’s injury, rather than the accident. Experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers know insurance company tactics and may negotiate with insurance representatives on behalf of injured parties.
  • The injury’s impact on victims’ daily lives. Generally, the more disruptions an injury causes, the higher the value of the case. For example, a traumatic brain injury may result in permanent disability, preventing an individual from returning to work. In that case, the settlement may be significant. In comparison, an individual who merely suffers a broken leg that heals without complications, is not likely to experience extensive, long-term impacts in their daily life. Therefore, the value of the case will be lower.
  • Whether the injured victim contributed to causing the accident. In many accidents, determining fault is not straightforward. Some accidents involve multiple potentially liable parties.

My spouse died in a motorcycle accident. Can I file a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit?

If your significant other passes away in a motorcycle accident as a result of someone else’s negligence or willful actions, you may pursue damages as a result of the accident under a wrongful death lawsuit.  Typically, a survival action often accompanies a wrongful death claim. A survival action allows families to seek damages related to the pain and suffering their loved one experienced between the time of the accident and their death.

Speak with our South Carolina motorcycle accident attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm about your specific circumstances and whether you can pursue damages through the wrongful death process.

I was offered a settlement almost immediately. Should I take it?

Injured victims should use caution when they are offered a quick settlement following an accident as once you accept a settlement offer from an insurance company, you can no longer go back and demand more money. Insurance companies often seek to reduce their financial liability by offering a quick, low settlement soon after an accident. Quickly accepting a settlement can present problems because the amount typically does not reflect the full value of the claim. Victims may still need medical treatment and may not know the full impact of their injuries.

Individuals may experience unexpected complications or require additional surgeries in the future. Early in the recovery process, injured victims may not know the full impact their injuries may have on their daily lives.

The uncertainty can create problems, because after accepting a settlement, victims may not seek additional compensation for their injuries. Retaining a South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney before entertaining the notion of settling can maximize your recovery. The personal injury attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm are here to help.

How long after my accident do I have to file a South Carolina motorcycle accident lawsuit?

The statute of limitations in South Carolina permits injured parties to file a South Carolina motorcycle accident claim within three years of the date of the accident. However, there are some exceptions. A South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney can advise injured parties whether their case qualifies as an exception to the statute of limitations.

If my case settles, will I have to pay taxes on the compensation I receive?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, money received as a result of a South Carolina motorcycle accident claim is not considered income and is, therefore, not taxable. However, for claims that result in an award of punitive damages, that portion of the damages is taxable. Punitive damages are not paid to compensate for the injured party’s expenses, but rather to punish the defendant for particularly reckless behavior. Because these damages do not reimburse victims for the expenses or impacts they suffered as a result of their injuries, the IRS may tax them.

Should I hire an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?

If you were injured as a result of someone else’s careless or reckless actions, an experienced South Carolina motorcycle accident attorney can benefit you throughout the claims process.

Our attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm have provided legal representation for injured motorcyclists in South Carolina and have assisted our clients in various ways, including:

  • Providing information to better understand the legal process, the time limits involved, and the formalities of the local court system. We can assist in the timely filing of paperwork in the proper jurisdiction, attendance at all pre-trial conferences and hearings, and handling many other legal details.
  • Understanding the tactics that insurance companies use to avoid compensating people who were injured as a result of their insured’s actions. This is particularly true in motorcycle cases, because defense attorneys may stereotype riders as reckless to minimize an insurance company’s financial liability.
  • Consulting the firm’s network of experts, including medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists. We may use experts to obtain insight or testimony to support claims for compensation.
  • Understanding how to properly value a claim to ensure that the settlement or award will meet our injured clients’ current and future needs.
  • Assisting injured victims in collecting their compensation award or settlement or award, ensuring victims receive the full amount they deserve.
  • Being willing and prepared to continue representation should the defendant in the case appeal the court’s award of damages.

Contact a South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

It may feel overwhelming to heal from a motorcycle accident injury while also trying to take the steps that are necessary to protect your rights. At the Hughey Law Firm, we understand that it can be a difficult time for you and your loved ones after an accident. We are here to analyze the facts of your case and discuss available options moving forward. Not all cases are the same and clients have different needs.

Evidence that could be relevant to the crash may disappear over time. Contacting an experienced lawyer as soon as possible could help preserve that evidence and begin the process of staking your claim for appropriate damages.

Our attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm have provided legal representation for injured motorcycle riders in South Carolina. We are here to help you understand your legal options. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, contact us today for a consultation to discuss the specific details of your matter.